Grey Matter Loss at Different Stages of Cognitive Decline: A Role for the Thalamus in Developing Alzheimer's Disease

Laurens Ansem van de Mortel, Rajat Mani Thomas, Guido Alexander van Wingen

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Alzheimer's disease (AD) is characterized by cognitive impairment and large loss of grey matter volume and is the most prevalent form of dementia worldwide. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage that precedes the AD dementia stage, but individuals with MCI do not always convert to the AD dementia stage, and it remains unclear why. Objective: We aimed to assess grey matter loss across the brain at different stages of the clinical continuum of AD to gain a better understanding of disease progression. Methods: In this large-cohort study (N=1,386) using neuroimaging data from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, voxel-based morphometry analyses were performed between healthy controls, individuals with early and late and AD dementia stage. Results: Clear patterns of grey matter loss in mostly hippocampal and temporal regions were found across clinical stages, though not yet in early MCI. In contrast, thalamic volume loss seems one of the first signs of cognitive decline already during early MCI, whereas this volume loss does not further progress from late MCI to AD dementia stage. AD dementia stage converters already show grey matter loss in hippocampal and mid-temporal areas as well as the posterior thalamus (pulvinar) and angular gyrus at baseline. Conclusion: This study confirms the role of temporal brain regions in AD development and suggests additional involvement of the thalamus/pulvinar and angular gyrus that may be linked to visuospatial, attentional, and memory related problems in both early MCI and AD dementia stage conversion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-720
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • angular gyrus
  • grey matter
  • hippocampus
  • neuroimaging
  • thalamus

Cite this